Let the Hugo coverage begin!
I'm going to keep this short, if for no other reason than that it's difficult to talk about without spoiling the first volume. This is the sequel to last year's Hugo nominee, Feed, in which credulous conspiracy-mongering bloggers in the future attempt to save the world from zombie apocalypse with the Truth. I did not like that book, as it recycled zombie tropes to deliver a message that was both hackneyed and ridiculous. Deadline is more of the same.
Of course, if you liked Feed, you'll probably like the sequel too. And I do see why people liked this - especially zombie fans. It delivers the standard tropes of the genre quite effectively while adding a couple of fresh elements: the journalism angle, a future setting (the books takes place decades after the zombiepocalypse began), and - my favorite element - some decent speculative epidemiological material on how zombies work. There is a change of narrator, which I thought could cripple the book since the narrative voice of the first book is so important. It doesn't cripple the book; however, this is mostly because the voice doesn't change nearly as much as it should. So, yeah, that was Seanan McGuire's (Mira Grant's alter ego) voice in Feed, moreso than George's.
It really is more of the same. There's another clichéd conspiracy, this time involving the CDC. This book actually has a one-dimensional villain noting how one-dimensional the villain of the first book was while monologuing that this was part of a master plan. I think it’s supposed to make it seem like there was more to that story than we thought, but to me, it felt like an awkward attempt to salvage a problem from the first book while committing the exact same mistake.
And then, there are lots and lots of blog entries and conversations from the characters in which they portentously discuss how important the Truth is and just how super-awesome they are at delivering it. Commentor "strangetelemetry" made the excellent point (in a comment on my review of Feed) that Grant does not quite deliver the awesome prose and investigative journalism that her characters are constantly patting themselves on the back over. There's a lot of telling about how great the characters are at their jobs and not much effective showing, which makes their frequent self-praise annoying and, eventually, insufferable. It's worth noting though that "the truth" is something of a theme with this year's nominees, so I guess Grant is ahead of the curve. Should we call it "The Assange Effect"?
We get a stunning twist at the end that a) I saw coming from the first time the word "clone" was uttered by a character (sidebar: considering how hard Grant works to have her zombie virus make sense, I found it disappointing that she rolled out some clone psuedoscience like rapid aging), and b) made me roll my eyes. I really don't want to read the third volume in this trilogy.